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New fireworks law fizzles like wet firecracker

September 12, 2012
The Mining Journal

Michigan's new fireworks law landed with both a bang and a whimper this summer.

There's no doubt that the new rules legalizing powerful fireworks in Michigan made for louder celebrations this Fourth of July - and long after. But the windfall from fireworks sales, the primary reason for the law, fizzled like a wet firecracker.

The new law simply hasn't brought in as much revenue as supporters forecast, which convinces us it's time for a critical look at the legislation.

The Detroit News reported Monday that fireworks sellers paid the state an estimated $2 million in licensing fees and taxes from sales of their products through the end of August.

That's way behind revenue estimates put forward by proponents of the law. Their guesses ranged from $8 million to $40 million.

Granted, that may not be a full tally, as not all retailers have paid the state taxes on July and August sales. But there's no way the new revenue will outweigh the downside of this legal change.

Bottle rockets, aerial displays, Roman candles, firecrackers - all can be sold and enjoyed legally in Michigan after lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder erased a longstanding ban. But the new free-for-all led to an explosion of complaints, safety concerns, neighborhood disputes and confusion.

Even State Rep. Harold Haugh, D-Roseville, who wrote the law, has had second thoughts about it. After Independence Day, he said he'd received numerous complaints from municipalities and wanted to review the legislation with an eye toward giving more enforcement power to local municipalities.

In the city of Marquette, the new law kept police busy during the entire Fourth of July week. Police officials said the number of nuisance and loud noise calls rose sharply from previous years - perhaps a 40 to 50 percent increase. Trying to crack down on fireworks scofflaws will be costly and difficult.

According to the new law, communities can't create ordinances banning the use of the larger fireworks on the day before, the day of or the day after federal holidays.

But police can use other city ordinances to control the use of fireworks at other times - if they can catch the perpetrators. Such rules will never be easy to enforce, because officers have to practically be at the scene to witness the fireworks being set off.

Haugh said he has conferred with numerous state Legislators and has asked Gov. Rick Snyder to consider allowing a bipartisan committee to review the law.

That's the very least that needs to be done. In light of the large number of complaints and lack of revenue bounty for the state, Michigan may want to go back to the old system.

It appears the previous ban was the only thing keeping people from setting pyrotechnics off year-round at all hours of the day and night.

It seems going back to the old system would mean a few less bucks, but a lot less bang.



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